I put a few items on an online wish list at Christmas time – one of them was a practice mute. The list paid off in spades, and, much to my delight, I came home from Wichita with the thing. It works quite well; I had my first full practice session with it yesterday. It’s rigid plastic, and it came with a little case. It’s adjustable for various bridge widths and would apparently also work with a viola.
The degree to which the mute does its job is quite pronounced – I wondered exactly what the muting effect would be, though I had previously tried one on that Teacher had, so I knew that these types of mutes definitely do their thing! I wanted one because of our proximity to neighbors and my schedule. I prefer to practice in the mornings, and if I want to be earlier for work on any given day and still want to get some practice in I can find myself out of luck.
Playing with the mute was unexpectedly a little bit psychologically liberating – I hadn’t much considered the impact on my psyche and my playing made by the fact that I know others in my building can hear my playing, but I can’t deny that yesterday with the mute on I was less the cautious student and more the bold performer. Perhaps such a shift is timely, considering my last lesson’s focus on bold bowing.
But the mute has a significant impact on tone production; the instrument does not “ring” when playing, the term Teacher uses to describe the vibration of strings that happens due to natural harmonic resonance of adjacent notes and such. It also minimizes the “noise” created by the bow. Beginners like me are working to make smooth and even bow strokes that don’t scratch or creak or squeak, and those foibles are minimized by the mute. Generally speaking, I need to be able to hear my foibles!
The mute works so well that my tuner (also a Christmas Wish List Special) doesn’t register the sound from my usual distance – I have to really lean in close to the mic. If that thing can’t hear it then even Michael sleeping in the next room can’t. Don’t you love it when a simple object does a simple job well?
Thanks for reading.